The 2000-01 Orlando Solar Bears featured players like Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, Edmonton Oilers forward Darcy Hordichuk, Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Weaver, the late Dan Snyder and the incomparable Norm Maracle in goal.
They were the best team in the International Hockey League that season, winning the 2001 Turner Cup.
And then the IHL folded, with that incarnation of the Solar Bears folding with it. The franchise never had a chance to raise its championship banner … that is, until Feb. 2, 2013.
The Orlando Solar Bears have been resurrected as an ECHL franchise, and an affiliate of the Minnesota Wild. As part of their inaugural season, the Solar Bears decided to honor that 2001 Turner Cup-winning team with a championship banner ceremony – nearly 12 years after winning it.
The Turner Cup will be in the building, giving fans a chance to see the long-awaited trophy back in Orlando. Representatives from the Hockey Hall of Fame will be escorting the Cup and fans will have an opportunity to take pictures with the Turner Cup on the concourse level. Orlando will wear special throwback jerseys reminiscent of the 2001 Turner Cup Championship team during the game.
Neither the team nor the Orlando Sentinel calls this a banner “raising”; perhaps it’s just a ceremony. Alas, it’s also a ceremony that won’t actually have any members of the 2001 team in attendance, which is a little odd – but the ex-Bears are honored anyway.
"You have that bond that never goes," said Peter Horachek, who coached that team and now is an assistant with the Nashville Predators. "You keep it forever. You have a ring together. You have pictures together. "I don't have pictures of all the teams I've ever coached, but I have pictures of the teams that won."
"I've had some great moments in scoring my first NHL goal and scoring an overtime winner and playing in some special buildings,'' said Jarrod Skalde, a center on that team and now coach of the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones. "Winning in Orlando is right at the top.”
Should be a nice, nostalgic night. For the record: Solar Bears still runs second to Rollergators for best Orlando hockey franchise name.
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